Sydney Roosters prop Sam Moa knows all-too well the threat posed by Leeds guest player Ali Lauiti’iti when the Kiwis open their tour of England at Headingley.
Second-rower Lauiti’iti, 36, has accepted an invitation to play for the club he represented 196 times across eight seasons, after ending a dynamic NRL tenure with the Warriors.
The former Kiwi will start alongside another one-off returnee, former Great Britain and 2002 Sydney Roosters premiership-winning forward Adrian Morley, presenting a seasoned challenge to the tourists on Friday.
Roosters hardman Moa expects New Zealand to have their hands full, especially if Lauiti’iti produces anything like the sort of flamboyant play from his prime.
“Ali’s still the baby-faced assassin. We can’t take him too lightly because obviously he’s proven for a long period of time that he’s capable of causing havoc with the ball in hand,” Moa said.
Moa enjoyed catching up this week at a Kiwis team dinner with Lauiti’iti, who has played the past four seasons for Wakefield Trinity.
The pair locked horns on several occasions in England when Moa played four seasons for Hull FC before shifting to Sydney in 2013.
“Ali’s a legend over here for what he’s done. He’s paved the way for a lot of the Kiwis who have come over here.”
New Zealand will face a stiff task defending their unbeaten record against Leeds in 11 meetings dating back to 1907.
Leeds have dominated the Super League in recent seasons and were recently crowned 2015 champions.
They will want to deliver a memorable farewell to three departing greats – their starting New Zealand prop Kylie Leuluai and former Great Britain stalwarts Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield.
The teams haven’t met since 1993, while the game is New Zealand’s first against any British club team for 13 years.
It is the only hit-out ahead of the Kiwis’ three-Test series against England and Moa admits it will be very important for certain players.
Tuimoala Lolohea is one of four newcomers and will play at halfback while Pita Hiku is at stand-off, with the pair on a steep learning curve to fill the boots of injured pair Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran.
They are both likely to start the first Test at Hull on November 1.